Bodhisattva Manjusri

Thereupon Bodhisattva Manjusri rose from his seat in the midst of the assembly, prostrated himself at the feet of the Buddha, circled the Buddha three times to the right, knelt down, joined his palms, [1] and said: “O World Honored One of great compassion! Please expound to the multitude who have come to this assembly the Tathagata s Dharma practice of the original-arising purity of the causal ground. [2] Please also expound to us how bodhisattvas may initiate this state of pure mind within the Mahayana and leave all illness. [Pray teach us] so that sentient beings in the future Dharma Ending Age who aspire to the Mahayana will not fall into erroneous views.” Having said these words, he prostrated himself on the ground. He made the same request three times, each time repeating the same procedure.

At that time the World Honored One said to Bodhisattva Manjusri: “Excellent, excellent! Virtuous man, for the benefit of the multitude of bodhisattvas you have asked about the Tathagata’s Dharma practice of the causal ground. For the benefit of all sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age who aspire to Mahayana, you asked how they can attain correct abiding and not fall into erroneous views. Listen attentively now. I shall explain it to you.”

Hearing this, Bodhisattva Manjusti was filled with joy and listened silently along with the assembly.

“Virtuous man, the Supreme Dharma King possesses the method of the great dharani [3] called Complete Enlightenment, [4] out of which emanates pure true suchness, bodhi, and nirvana, as well as the paramitas to teach bodhisattvas. The original-arising [purity] of the causal ground of theTathagatas relies on the complete illumination of [intrinsic] enlightenment, which is pure [in essence] and permanently free from ignorance. [5] Only then do the [Tathagatas] accomplish the Buddha Path.

“What is ignorance? Virtuous man, since beginningless time, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who has lost his sense of direction. They mistake the four great elements [6] as the attributes of their bodies, and the conditioned impressions [7] of the six sense objects as the attributes of their minds. They are like a man with an illness of the eyes who sees an [illusory] flower in the sky, or a second moon.

“Virtuous man, there is in reality no flower in the sky, yet the sick man mistakenly clings to it. Because of his mistaken clinging, he is not only deluded about the intrinsic nature of the empty space, but also confused about the arising of the flower. Because of this false existence [to which he clings], he remains in the turning wheel of birth and death. Hence this is called ignorance.

“Virtuous man, this ignorance has no real substance. It is lik a person in a dream. Though the person exists in the dream, when [the dreamer] awakens, there is nothing that can be grasped. Like an [illusory] flower in the sky that vanishes into empty space, one cannot say that there is a fixed place from which it vanishes. Why? Because there is no place from which it arises! Amidst the unarisen, all sentient beings deludedly perceive birth and extinction. Hence this is called the turning wheel of birth and death.

“Virtuous man, one who practices Complete Enlightenment of the causal ground of the Tathagata realizes that [birth and extinction] are like an illusory flower in the sky. Thus there is no continuance of birth and death and no body or mind that is subject to birth and death. This nonexistence of [birth and death and body and mind] is so not as a consequence of contrived effort. It is so by its intrinsic nature.

“The awareness [of their nonexistence] is like empty space. That which is aware of the empty space is like the appearance of the illusory flower. However, one cannot say that the nature of this awareness is nonexistent. Eliminating both existence and nonexistence is in accordance with pure enlightenment.

“Why is it so? Because the nature of empty space is ever unmoving. Likewise, there is neither arising nor perishing within the Tathagatagarbha. [8] It is free from conceptual knowledge and views. Like the nature of dharmadhatu, which is ultimate, wholly complete, and pervades all ten directions, such is the Dharma practice [of the Tathagata] of the causal ground.

“Because of this [intrinsic completeness], bodhisattvas within the Mahayana may give rise to pure bodhi-mind. If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age practice accordingly, they will not fall into erroneous views.”

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to clarify his meaning, proclaimed these gathas:

Manjusri, you should know
that all Tathagatas,
from their original-arising causal ground,
use wisdom to enlighten
and penetrate ignorance.
Realizing that ignorance is like
a flower in the sky,
they are thus liberated from the continuance
[of birth and death].
Like a person [seen] in a dream who
cannot be found when [the dreamer] awakens,
awareness is like empty space.
It is impartial and equal, and ever unmoving.
When enlightenment pervades all ten directions,
the Buddha Path is accomplished.
There is no place where illusions vanish,
and there is no attainment
in accomplishing the Buddha Path,
for the intrinsic nature is already wholly complete.
By this, bodhisattvas
can give rise to the bodhi-mind.
Sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age
through this practice will avoid erroneous views.

[1] Literally, this should be translated as “joined his palms together with the tips of the fingers crossed” (cha shou). This is one of the ancient Indian gestures for respect. It symbolizes the nonduality of the realm of the Buddhas (the left hand) and the realm of ordinary sentient beings (right hand).

[2] Causal ground (yin di) can also be understood as the mind-ground (xin di). It refers to both the circumstance when the Buddha first initiated the bodhi-mind (chu fa pu ti xin) and to the intrinsic nature of mind (xin xing) or Buddha-nature (fo xing). Original arising, ben qi simply means the fundamental starting point of Dharma practice (fa xing), which refers to the practice that accords with the nature of all dharmas (fa xing), that is, emptiness, (kong xing).

[3] Dharani (zong chi) means universal control. See glossary for further information.

[4] From the perspective of the result, Complete Enlightenment (yuan jue) refers to the state of Buddhahood. From the perspective of the path, where practice is still neccessary, Complete Enlightenment refers to the state reached by bodhisattvas first bhumi and above. From the perspective of the cause, it designates the perfection and completeness of Buddha-nature intrinsic to all beings (yuan man xian cheng zhi fo xing).

[5] Ignorance (wu ming) is avidva in Sanskrit. See glossary for further information.

[6] The four great elements (si da) are: earth, water, fire, and wind. Together, they constitute the physical body of a living human being.

[7] Impressions (ying) may also be translated as reflections or shadows.

[8] Tathagatagarbha (ru lai zang) is synonymous with Buddha-nature (fo xing). See glossary for further information.